Hearing health is a significant concern amongst Australians with 1 in 6 people experiencing hearing loss to some degree. But even being one of the most common disabilities affecting Australians, education surrounding the issue is limited and it is often misconceived as only a very narrow condition.
A drop in the volume that can be heard caused by exposure to loud sound. That is how a majority of the population perceive this disabilty. What many people don't know is that there are actually 3 main different types of hearing loss, each with different causes and effects.
Conductive Hearing Loss
This is the type of loss that is most commonly associated with the term. But despite it's infamy, it is not the most common type. Conductive hearing loss is identified as only a drop in the volume that a person can hear and is usually a temporary condition with complete or partial improvements possible.
By now, the idea that cotton swabs are not effective at cleaning earwax and can actually be harmful has undoubtedly reached many ears. In fact, this practice can even be seen as a cause of loss. Sound being blocked from transmitting through the hearing system is what causes conductive hearing loss and cotton swabs are known to push earwax further into the ears, often resulting in a buildup of excessive wax and blocking sound.
Earwax is however, not the sole cause, with other foreign objects being capable of lodging inside the ear and blocking hearing as well. Other causes include ear infections resulting in swelling and perforated ear drums, which can indeed be caused by non-cautious use of cotton swabs.
Fortunately, conductive hearing loss is not usually permanent. There are surgical treatments to remove any foreign objects obstructing hearing and depending on the level of wax present, only cleaning may be required. When caused by infection, treating the infection will usually result in hearing being recovered as well. However, if these medical and surgical treatments fail, the use of hearing aids to amplify sound will often work http://bayaudiology.co.nz/hearing-aids.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Much less commonly thought of but a much more common condition is sensorineural hearing loss. Unlike conductive loss, this type of is permanent and does not just decrease the volume of sound that is experienced but also diminishes the quality and clarity of sound heard.
Sensorineural is often permanent because it is not just as a result of a blockage in the ear that can be removed. Unrepairable damage caused to the inner ear through the nerve or hair cells lining the cochlea – which are the carriers of loudness and clarity to our brain – is the main reason. Extended exposure to loud sounds, stress and age – are all potential damaging factors.
Alongside a reduction in volume and quality of sound, sensorineural hearing loss is often accompanied by tinnitus http://nhc.com.au/tinnitus. This is commonly referred to as a ringing in your ears and in addition to the sensorineural loss already being experienced can make hearing even more difficult. It should be noted that tinnitus is a symptom and not a disease itself, although it may be introduced as a result of the same potential causes.
Reduced sound levels and clarity can make conversations extremely difficult to follow, especially in noisy environments where it often seems that others are mumbling or speak too softly. Although there are not many treatment options there are definitely ways to alleviate the problem, with digital hearing aids as the most popular device used. With advancements in technology over the past few years, these devices are now able to even differentiate between noise and speech to improve the overall experience of users. But while hearing aids may not be able to cure sensorineural hearing loss they will definitely help to manage the condition.
Mixed Hearing Loss
A combination of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss is possible. This arises from damage or obstruction of both the outer and middle ear as well as the inner ear. As expected, those experiencing this condition will suffer from both a reduction in sound alongside a decrease in clarity of sound, making speech extremely difficult to understand.
The treatment for this depends largely on the degree to which each type of hearing loss is present. Hearing aids are yet again a popular option but medicine and surgeries can potentially be useful too.
Hearing health is an important factor contributing to overall quality of life and with so many different types of hearing loss it can be difficult to find suitable preventative measures. An audiologist will be able to offer more personalised solutions and a visit is a great first step towards improving your hearing health.